May 25, 2024

French still pondering new bioethics law

National Assembly to consider 95 proposals

A national review of bioethics laws in
France still has not reached a resolution. The current law dates back to 2004 and
the government conducted an extensive
in 2009. The President, Nicolas Sarkozy, did not want the
debate to be highjacked by “experts” so hundreds of meeting were held
throughout the country – a kind of “Etats généraux de la bioéthique
after the Estates-General which inaugurated the French Revolution.

At the same time, a committee of parliamentary
deputies conducted more than a hundred hearings with the experts — lawyers,
doctors, scientists, psychologists, and the religious leaders.

The upshot of this gigantic talk-fest was a 561 page
report with 95 proposals
for the National Assembly. The most
significant of these are:

* the primacy of ethics over scientific and
economic criteria

* The “interests of the unborn child” must
be taken into account in making decisions about reproductive technology.

* bolstering research on genetic diseases,
especially trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).

* better integration of disabled persons.

* preserving the ban on surrogate

* an extension of pre-implantation
diagnosis to trisomy 21

* authorization of human embryonic stem
cell research

It is likely that France will continue to
be more restrictive than other countries in Europe. The raporteur for the
report to the National Assembly, Jean Leonetti, told the French
magazine Le Point earlier this year
, “So what if surrogacy is
permitted by our neighbours? If the law is determined by what everybody else
does, what’s the good of the law? How far are we prepared to manipulate
bioethics to respond to our every whim? It’s odd that we apply the
precautionary principle to the environment and not to human beings.” ~ HT, Jean

Michael Cook